Flying Foxes

Bad news today for the large flying fox, which has just been given an extinction warning.  Apparently it could be flapping its way to the land of Dodos and Tasmanian Wolves in as little as six years.  I think it’s easy for people in places like the UK to overlook the human and economic factors involved in the hunting of such animals, but it’s always depressing to think the world might be parting ways with a species as dramatic as this.

The heads of these things look more like those of wolves or bears than the bats we get in this part of the world.  The (quite incredible) ARKive website has some pictures here, and although there are no videos of this species, it’s worth exploring their footage of similar flying foxes, such as this


I’m a big fan of medieval bestiaries.  In future posts I’m hoping to link to a few (there are some incredible digitised manuscripts available to read online), and pick out some of the things medieval scholars penned about animals both real and fictional.  Also, Jorge Luis Borges’ The Book of Imaginary Beings, which is something I love flicking through.  But these are digressions – for now here’s The Aberdeen Bestiary’s beautiful thoughts on the bat (from the birds section of the manuscript, naturally)…

“The bat, a lowly animal, gets its name from vesper, the evening, when it emerges. It is a winged creature but also a four-footed one, and it has teeth, which you would not usually find in birds. It gives birth like a quadruped, not to eggs but to live young.

It flies, but not on wings; it supports itself by making a rowing motion with its skin, and, suspended just as on wings, it darts around.

There is one thing which these mean creatures do, however: they cling to each other and hang together from one place looking like a cluster of grapes, and if the last lets go, the whole group disintegrate; it is a kind of act of love, of a sort which is difficult to find among men.”

Comments 4

  1. Adam wrote:

    Mean creatures? A bit harsh, Aberdeen…

    Posted 27 Aug 2009 at 4:32 pm
  2. Ali wrote:

    The bat gets off lightly. You should see what the bestiary has to say about the he-goat…

    http://www.abdn.ac.uk/bestiary/translat/21v.hti

    Posted 28 Aug 2009 at 9:51 am
  3. gondal girl wrote:

    What a lovely surprise, I just posted about your book today on my blog, then stumbled about online and found your blog…

    I love flying foxes or fruit bats, they are beautiful thing, but they are diminishing, though not at Sydney’s Botanic Gardens at night where they hang from the trees like forgotten washing. When I first arrived in Sydney they were abundant, their screeches filling the night and there sometimes poor little electrocuted bodies hanging from the power lines

    Posted 10 Sep 2009 at 5:16 am
  4. Ali wrote:

    It’s terribly sad to thing of scorched flying foxes hanging from power lines… but if I ever make it to Sydney I’m going to go and marvel at the still-living ones in the Botanic Gardens. Thanks for the tip, and for posting about the book on your blog.

    Posted 10 Sep 2009 at 9:49 am